Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Winkie Convention Report... Coming Home...

Sunday morning had the audacity to come far too early. It always does when you are attending a convention. After an extremely disappointing overpriced breakfast ($4 for instant oatmeal? Are you kidding me?!? And he didn't even give me the flavor I asked for! Bah!) we headed back to the room and packed up. Eric took charge of checking us out while I took charge of finding a place to stow my luggage. I put my bag in registration while finalizing the day's newsletter, then left the bag there until the programming got down to a single track at 1:30 p.m. in the main ballroom. Eric took his bag to the lobby to stow.

I started my day in my jail, but with the swap shop gone, Eric let me wander the dealers room while he kept an eye on the art show for a bit. I talked with most of the dealers and asked how their show had gone. Pretty much all of them were enthusiastic, saying they'd sold a lot and done well. Artist William Stout said he'd sold more at Winkie Con than he did at San Diego Comicon. He also said that was, in part, due to the way SDCC sells its tickets now. Comic book fans aren't getting the opportunities to even buy tickets, so they aren't coming to the show.

Anyway, I got to talk a bit with my friend Anna who runs Illusive Comics and Games in Santa Clara. She also had a good convention, selling a lot of Oz Tarot decks. I also talked with the fan tables set up for other conventions, and started getting a lot of advice on what to do when Eric chairs the convention in 2016.

I returned to the prison to let Eric out and stayed there until artists came and got their works. We were able to leave before noon, closing up the almost empty room behind us, and Eric and I got lunch (expensive hotel sandwiches) and ate in the hospitality suite.

I finished out the convention in the main ballroom, talking notes on some sheets of paper I got from our room and, eventually, jumping in to say something. I'm afraid I volunteered myself for another mailing list task, but it shouldn't be too hard to pull off (famous last words). I took a lot of e-mails to add to the newsletter list, writing them down and hoping I could read my own handwriting when it came time to enter them online.

The final panel was an "onions and roses" type thing, where people were asked for feedback. The biggest complaint from fans who spent 30 years at Asilomar was the food situation.

Ok, I'm going to back up a bit. The Winkie Convention was originally held at people's houses. It then got big enough that it moved to the Cambria Pines Lodge for four years in the early 1970s. It outgrew that venue and moved to the Hotel Wawona, in Yosemite, California for nine years. The first Asilomar Winkie Convention was held in 1984, and every one after that until this year was held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. The only year missed was 2000 because there was no Winkie Convention held that year. In 2000, all the Oz conventions combined into a general convention held at the Indiana Memorial Union and known as "The Centennial Convention" by Oz fans.

Now, after 30 years in the same place, you might guess that people were used to the venue. People loved Asilomar. Heck, I loved Asilomar and dearly miss it. But Asilomar, which is a state park in a cash-strapped state, had to keep raising its prices. And some fans were simply getting priced out of the convention. Attendance was down, and the convention risked fading away, like the other regional conventions already had.

This year's chair, David Maxine, didn't want to see that happen. Way back in 2009 he started to work on saving Winkie Con. One thing he did was get me to volunteer to edit the Winkie Newsletter and to write convention reports at the con that go out during the convention itself. He also started to use social media to push the convention, creating Facebook pages for the con. And this year he moved the venue to the Town and Country Resort in San Diego because the cost of Asilomar is just way too high.

One reason for the high cost is the food. When the con was held at Asilomar, every meal is included in the price. This made the base price for the convention for a single person more than $350 for the entire con... and that's without paying any of the convention's costs.

The hard choice was made by David, and agreed to by many fans, to not provide meals during the convention. At the final panel, at least one fan had a very strong negative opinion about that, saying that the convention just isn't the same without that time to sit and chat with people you don't know while at meals.

And he's right. But so was David. It's a no-win situation. If you want people to attend, you can't have the whole thing be more than $400 a ticket. But Winkie Con was unique among conventions I attend because of that bonding time with people at meals.

So I boldly got on stage at the final panel and said I would create a discussion list so we can work out ways to solve the problem. There will actually be two discussion lists, I think. The main one for venting and general discussion and a smaller, possibly moderated, one for people who will actually do things at the convention: a con-com type list. We'll see how it works out in the end.

As the convention drew to a close, I was delighted to be told by several people, including Bjo Trimble, that they would be sure to contribute to the newsletter. Then Eric and I had to carry a box of about a dozen copies of his book along with all my luggage to the lobby, which was about a mile away across the distance of the resort. We stopped a golf-cart jitney within sight of the lobby and the nice bellhop drove us the rest of the way. Then we had to repack our luggage to fit those dozen books in. Then another nice bellhop took us to a bridge that led to the green line platform.

From there on out we had to walk while carrying heavy bags, which was only really nasty because the blisters on my hands and the tops of my feet were still hurting. Eric found the elevator up to the platform and as we waited for the next train, a woman ran across from the opposite platform and asked if it was too late to join the newsletter. I took her email address and she ran back just in time for her train.

This time the green line was not crowded. We found seats and didn't have to give them up. We got to the Santa Fe station and got off then walked to a bus stop. It had a sign to text a number to find out when the next bus was coming, so I did. It said the stop was not in use. We hauled our luggage the other direction to another stop. This time when I texted it said the bus was coming in 10 minutes.

An older gentleman in a wheelchair, holding a guitar and talking to himself, was also at the stop. He got on the bus, which took some effort from the driver. As the bus left the stop, the man asked where the bus was headed. When he heard "airport" he said he needed to get off. So at the next regular stop he did. The driver did not roll his eyes or anything, just patiently did his job. I have to salute him for it.

Once at the airport we stopped at the commuter terminal and picked up a bunch of guys with lots of luggage. One of them paid the fare for himself and another guy entirely in small change, one piece at a time. By the time he finished, I was starting to get anxious about actually getting to our terminal in time. Fortunately, I didn't have enough time on the trip back to start having any anxiety attacks. We were rushing enough that moments of panic just couldn't get through.

Ours was actually the next stop, and we got off the bus gratefully, but then had to haul the heavy bags quite a ways down the outside of the building to get in, then over to a place we could print our boarding passes, then back to security. The San Diego security line was slower, but the directions were much more useful. This time I didn't get stopped, although Eric didn't pass the naked scanner and had to get a patdown on one leg that showed something, even though he had emptied his pockets.

Once in the terminal we were lucky enough to find seats, then it was the waiting game again. A youth group was being entirely too cheerful. The only restaurant was full and too expensive. The snack bars were way too expensive. I found a couple of power bars my mom had given me in Seattle before we left, and that helped to tide us over until we got on the plane THANKS MOM!!!. I also called my mom to let her know we wouldn't be getting dinner on the way, and maybe she could have something for us? She said she'd make French Toast. It seemed like a strange choice while sitting in the terminal in San Diego, but I said, "great".

While we waited, a toddler in a stroller arrived at the terminal. He was cute as a button and as loud as a battleship on red alert. His adults, three of them, did their level best to keep him from screaming, but he screamed anyway. I hoped he would be better behaved on the plane itself. Ha.

We finally got to board. Eric and I were a bit late in the process, and we ended up in the very last row. Right behind the cute toddler and his three adults. The toddler was not screaming in pain or fright, he was screaming to get attention and it worked. Unfortunately, he had plenty of screams for the entire flight. Every ten minutes or so he'd have a breakdown and start to scream. It was difficult, because I was trying to sleep. That didn't work real well.

Flying at night is different than flying during the day. Out my window there was a huge moon looming. I was able to see a city below and use the in-flight Southwest website to figure out it was Reno. There was some turbulance, that made me visualize the wing snapping off... I had to stop looking out the window at how the wing bounced in the air. Landing wasn't too bad, and then we were home.

Well, in Seattle at least.

We were the last passengers off the plane and we hauled our increasingly heavy carryons (funny how gravity pulls them harder the longer you carry them) to the departure gate, going to the last area, before I called my mom. Then we watched as people were picked up and dropped off. There was a large SUV that dropped off what seemed to be an entire household-worth of stuff, including a lot that looked like it ought to have been shipped. There was a woman who was extremely irate with her husband for driving past her. He said, "You know the rules, if there's nowhere to pick you up, I drive until I find a place and you have to walk!" She didn't seem very happy, but at least she had rolling luggage. There was a taxi driver who sat there waiting despite the frequent reminders that you can be fined for waiting in a loading and unloading zone. He was there the entire time we were waiting.

Finally mom got to us, we loaded up, and off to my folks place we went. Mom was good on her promise and we had French Toast for dinner with a lot of orange juice before we headed upstairs to bed. Inkwell the cat tried to figure out who we were, then why we were back. He clung to my ankle for awhile, refusing to let me out of his sight, even when I went into the bathroom. Clearly he missed me a bit.

I was able to get some computing done at my folks house, including my final con report, which I sent out Monday as we were resting from the trip. Annoyingly, Seattle was about 20 degrees Farenheit hotter than San Diego, and my folks don't have air conditioning (few people in Seattle do) so it was a sweaty sort of rest. We stayed that night for my father's birthday party and to see my sister's return from her two-month trip to New Zealand.

This morning we were planning to go to UW with my sister, but she was too exhausted to make the trip so instead we took off for home before lunchtime. Inkwell was extremely displeased to be placed in his carrier again. I think he believed he was going to stay at my folks' place from now on, so having to travel again was a shock for him. We stopped in Cle Elum for lunch, although the useful exit was closed so we had to backtrack. We had cheap burgers and shakes at Dairy Queen before hitting the road again.

I slept on the second leg of the journey while Eric drove. Inkwell started to sing me to sleep... well, meow endlessly to let us know he was unhappy. I slept through some of it. Then we were home to air conditioning and a soft bed. Now to rest, and hope I'm ready for what's already shaping up to be an extremely tough day of work on Thursday.